Map of the Week: Voici les Bases Américaines dans le Monde: Que est l’agresseur? Qui Menace?

PJM_xxx, 7/30/14, 5:43 PM, 8C, 5456×7844 (360+75), 100%, Repro 2.2 v2, 1/12 s, R56.2, G31.3, B49.8

When you first look at this map, what do you think? As an American, you’d think it was another anti-soviet, anti-communist map. The gigantic arrows pointing to the U.S.S.R. and China make you think so, especially if you can’t read French. However, once you dissect the map, the motive for the creation of the map becomes clear – it is quite the opposite of what you think.

The projection of the map is unusual, with the U.S.S.R at the center and China right underneath in bold. This, and the huge arrows pointing to these countries bring your attention to them. The map replicates a round globe, allowing practically every country on the planet to be linked to arrows pointing toward the Soviet Union and China. The map is called (in big letters at the top): “Here Are the American Bases Throughout the World: Who is the Aggressor? Who is the Threat?” The paragraph at the top left says “Two million American soldiers are preparing for war outside of America in all countries of the world, with their general staffs, their fleets, their tanks, their planes.” The top right says “Since the crushing of Hitler, not a soldier of the USSR or the popular democracies had fired a single shot outside the borders of his country.” The bottom quotes are quotes from President Truman and General MacArthur about the strategies of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. during the Cold War. 

Who made this map? In 1951, The French Communist Party created this map. Why? To expose American military imperialism and double standards from America. During the Cold War era, most of the maps circulating America and the whole world were anti-communist propaganda, so this map was a form of counter-mapping because it was anti-American imperialism propaganda. At the time, American imperialism seemed necessary to stop the spread of communism, but there were numerous dissenters opposing American authority during the era, which should be recognized historically.

The map asks you “Who is the aggressor?”, “Who is the menace?”. Those names were originally assigned to the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War era, so with the pieces of text on the sides and the map, they make you rethink who the actual aggressors of the world are. America has bases all over the world that could attack the U.S.S.R. and China at any moment, which paints America as the menace instead. The map also includes China, which represents the belief that the U.S.S.R. is spreading its communist influence into neighboring countries, but China also seems to be very close to U.S. military bases as well, which further proves America’s imperialist agenda. Since China had just gone through a communist revolution in 1949, America was concerned about China at the time because it meant that a significant part of Asia was under communist control.

I chose this map because it is something different from the maps we’ve seen in this course so far. We are used to seeing propaganda, but not on the other side. The fact that it was created by the French Communist Party and not the Soviets themselves tells you the influence that the Soviets had, especially since the French Communist party was in a country that supported the U.S. Those who saw the map can think about world events from a different point of view, probably resulting in a change of opinion – which was the purpose of the map. Even if most of the world was not on their side, the communist parties around the world were able to use cartography to influence the masses. This is why cartography is very powerful.

Blog link:

Atlas of the Week:

The Library of Congress has such a vast amount of atlases that you could just check out. I found this cool one while digging and the book was owned by Rosa Parks!


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5 Responses to Map of the Week: Voici les Bases Américaines dans le Monde: Que est l’agresseur? Qui Menace?

  1. Lucy Patterson says:

    Given the narrative we, in the United States, typically see about the Cold War, this is an important map to consider. This is only one of many pro-communist propaganda maps which were created in the Cold War. Yet it is still important to examine given the fact that it was produced by neither the United States nor the USSR. As noted in the blog post, however, the French Communist Party came from a country who supported the United States and their democratic ideals. How was this map received in France? As it was created to represent the American military as a dangerous source of imperialism, perhaps it was playing off the idea that the United States could suddenly decide to attempt to expand into Europe and France (however unlikely that is). Yet the map could also appeal to audiences unconvinced about communism. By painting America as the true threat to both the USSR and China, suddenly the Cold War conflict isn’t about the battle between communism and democracy. It becomes about the threat the United States poses to the world, exemplified by their supposed start in the Soviet Union and China. Ultimately, this map is an excellent choice relating to the class because of its unique perspective. It recalls the important idea that there are more significant players in history that we tend to account for, and suggests an exploration of seemingly unimportant aspects of history. How did this particular map impact the political climate in France, and in what ways did that impact have a ripple effect?

  2. Bridget Johnston says:

    I enjoyed your take on the use of this counter map. The perspective of the map itself is interesting given that during this time, as you said, most maps were anti-soviet focused. The map asserting America as the true threat is in contrast to a lot of the maps we have also been looking at in class. I think Denis Wood would be interested in the motive for this map and or what Americans think about this map. How might this map be interpreted by Americans when the maps they have seen are focused on the negative impacts of the USSR? I like how you pointed out the text on the map questioning who the real threat is. I think this goes to speak volumes about the perceptions of war and that often times there is no “good” or “bad” side because each opposing force believes that they are serving their country in the best way possible. This helps to see this map not as fact or false but as a looking-glass into the beliefs of the USSR and possibly other nations at the time who feared the United States insatiable hunger for power.

  3. Steven Yao says:

    Propaganda maps are one of the most explicit examples of demonstrating the rhetoric nature of maps, and so it’s important to look at many different propaganda maps made under different ideologies and nations to understand new or unique ways that maps utilize their structure and imagery in a rhetorical sense. I think this map specifically is an inversion to the typical American propaganda maps that depict thick arrows that originate from the USSR threatening to envelop the globe; by reversing those arrows and portraying USSR and its communist allies as victims instead of aggressors, the map is taking the same imagery and sentiment that the viewer would see from those arrows (the flow of military projection, force, influence) and utilizing them in favor of the USSR. I also think it’s important to consider the creators or the map; knowing that they weren’t even Soviet or Chinese mapmakers suddenly provides a much more nuanced look at the Cold War, where the conflict isn’t as black and white where it’s the forces of capitalism vs. the forces of communism, East vs. West, evil vs. good, etc. The fact the mapmakers were French demonstrates that the different ideologies of the two sides flowed freely back and forth across the borders of not just the US and Soviet Union, but also the borders of their allies and enemies.

  4. Douae Aghezzaf says:

    Good job Meklet! I enjoyed reading your post. The historical context was clear and understandable. What I really like about this map is that it is similar to the maps we looked at this semester in terms of symbols such arrows, and technics such as the aerial view, yet it is different kind of propaganda that we haven’t encountered. This map is propaganda from “the other side”, it shows to its readers the flip side of the political environment of the Cold War Era.
    I believe that it was very smart of the map’s author to center it around the USSR as it would “trap” anti-communists that believe that the map is in accord with their political views to read it or further look into it.
    Overall, good choice of map, and excellent analysis

  5. Luke Hedlund says:

    The propaganda map here shows us how the Soviet Union had support from communists in the west. it would be unimaginable for the Soviet Union to allow its own subjects to criticize Sovidt foreign policy, yet NATO nations had sizable groups of communist sympathizers who weren’t banned by the government.

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